MOE’s recent decision to implement parking fees in school compounds has stirred up a storm of comments across the internet. A large majority criticise it as an additional burden on teachers, while the few in support of it remark that it’s only fair, as workers in other professions have to pay for their parking.
And while the numbers against the move are overwhelming, so too is the outpouring of outrage and indignation on behalf of teachers.
Facebook user Elizabeth Tan said: “Many are forced to drive because they have to lug home heavy books and scripts to mark.”
Singaporean netizens have been quick to point out that teachers definitely have it difficult – long hours of overtime work, piles of assignments to mark, and the common demanding or irate parent. This is especially so in Singapore, where such a high premium is placed on education and where kiasu (literally, being fearful of losing out) parents strive to keep their child ahead of the race.
Just a few days ago, the wife of a teacher published a Facebook post lamenting about seeing how tired her husband was at the end of the week. The post promptly went viral.
A Straits Times report in October 2016 found that approximately 5,000 teachers had resigned over the past five years, citing pressures such as “long hours, demanding parents of students and a heavy administrative load”.
Working hours alone are simply insufficient to cover the range of duties expected from teachers. For every piece of homework that is assigned to a student in class, the teacher has to mark over 30 scripts. Outside of lesson time, teachers often meet students or parents for consultations, providing countless hours of assistance to help weaker pupils catch up. On top of all of this, many teachers are also involved in managing co-curricular or extra-curricular activities, dedicating precious time to supervising sessions and outings.
However, while many acknowledge that teaching is a noble profession that needs to be appreciated and rewarded, some argue that those in other professions which are also considered noble – such as nurses and social workers – are required to pay for their parking. So should teachers be any different?
Instead of fixating on these comparisons with other professions, consider this: If we feel so strongly about the important contributions that teachers make, are our cries to protect their right to free parking really the best we can do for them?
Since we have already identified the challenges placed on our teachers, would it not be better to do something to make their lives a little easier, a little better?
There is also the small matter of the many selfless and hardworking teachers who do not drive, for whom free parking was never a perk.
While we can’t reduce their workload or remove their administrative load, we could take time to re-evaluate the expectations and demands we have of teachers, and take a little time to reciprocate the many extra miles that they have gone.
We get it that parents want the best for their children and would often check in with teachers about their child’s development, even asking for extra resources to be made available to them. However, this translates to higher expectations placed on teachers resulting in greater stress, especially when we take into account the fact that each teacher is usually responsible for more than just a single class of students.
Could we, perhaps, place more trust in teachers to nurture our children according to their own methods, instead of constantly scrutinizing their actions and contacting them outside of their classroom hours, sometimes even calling them past midnight?
It may also be prudent to consider that putting such pressure on teachers could backfire: the overworked teachers may become less effective in their role as teachers.
Nevertheless, it is heartening to see that in recent years, parents have become more understanding of the challenges teachers face and have even suggested ways to lighten teachers’ workload such as outsourcing the planning of extra-curricular activities to trained professionals.
Many teachers are driven by a passion for nurturing students and as such, they willingly endure exhausting hours, making sure to go the extra mile to help those who need it.
To these teachers, it is not free parking or overtime pay that will motivate them. The biggest reward they can receive is genuine appreciation and gratitude from parents and students.
So why don’t we approach this with kindness and understanding, and work towards stepping up our displays of gratitude for all the hard work they have done to teach and nurture our next generation? These could go a long way towards making teachers feel appreciated, towards making their every extra mile worth it.
As we continue to cry out on behalf of our teachers, we should not neglect the need to tackle this issue at its very root. Let this whole debate over parking fees not turn into an argument about how much teachers do, but rather, how much we can do for them.